CIRCLING THE WAGONS

By:  Holly Horning

The PR people are working overtime, folks. And I fully expected their work to begin in earnest after the first of two sweeps.

In previous blogs, I gave away the secrets of those who work in public relations and crisis management. I’ve done enough work with them to recognize the fingerprints. They are the footsteps you hear before you actually witness the results.

If you really want to know what is about to happen to the team, check out the local newspapers. The stories all give hints of what is happening behind the scenes because the PR people are spreading the word, lining up interviews and calling the reporters with stories.

It’s a good way to find out who will get more work, who will get less and hint at changes down the road. A good case in point was the article recently on Andrew Romine and how versatile a player he is. It focused on how many positions he’s played. It came across as friendly, low-key kind of piece but there was intent behind it.

A day later, Romine was written into the lineup as the starting CF. The article was actually a “warm up” piece meant to prepare fans for the change and lessen the inevitable questions that would be posted on social media. Because, believe me, their job is to keep track of all the comment boards so they can address the fans’ hot buttons.

Their job is to stabilize the boat, spin perception, ease fans’ worries and keep the turnstiles clicking. Not only that, but they also address the overall perception of the organization to enhance the team’s value to other potential players and calm the nerves of players who are undoubtedly feeling unsettled and apprehensive about what may be happening to their team. Afterall, the athletes need to stay focused.

And the PR people have a lot of work to do. Especially since the “Twitterverse” started reporting weeks ago that Mr. I had grown impatient and had reached out, presumably, to Jim Leyland.

It’s their job to keep the finger (or in this case, paw) on the pulse of the public.

We’ve been through the controversy of Avila’s announcement last year to keep Ausmus as manager. Then it was the closed-door clubhouse meeting in April with the GM in attendance on the heels of a humiliating loss and sweep by the Indians.

But the bad news continued to roll downhill with an increase in losses, two sweeps and too-numerous-to-count questionable moves by Brad within the past week. Moves that the non-local tv announcers have routinely been criticizing.

First, it was ESPN’s announcers calling his moves on Monday night “curious and questionable.” On Tuesday night, it was the Nats tv analysts who were stunned with the move to put the winning run on first base via a walk.

They asked their staff to call the Elias Sports Bureau to find out the last time a manager actually made that move. Further compounded by Ausmus’ intent to walk a man in order to pitch to the guy who had hit 2 HRs off the Tigers that night. The Nats’ tv crew were trying not to laugh.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re seeing daily articles in the papers interviewing Tiger management in support of Ausumus. The first, predictably, an interview with Jim Leyland who gave a ringing endorsement of Brad’s skills and affirmation that he’s not interested in the job.

The next day, an interview with Lloyd McClendon, which also hinted that he’s going nowhere north. Oh, and the expected “Brad is doing a great job” quote. Direct attempts to squash the rumors that Brad’s departure was imminent.

We can probably also expect interviews with Gibby and Tram soon.

Quite frankly, it is the job of any organization to protect its employees. Fans do want to hear that changes will be made but that information is not going to come out in public until after it happens. And that is a good thing.

Anyone under intense scrutiny like Ausmus deserves to be treated with respect and have any analysis of their performance happen behind closed doors. It’s the professional thing to do.

Is there discussion going on behind closed doors? Absolutely. Will changes be made? Most probably.

But change is not an easy process and it doesn’t happen overnight. No stable organization makes a change just for making a change. And no organization will make a quick or weak change to compensate for the original poor decision. At least, let’s hope not.

Especially when any new manager will require at least a 3-year contract. The Tigers don’t want to hire someone new simply for the sake of getting rid of their current manager. That will create a whole new set of problems that really won’t resolve the problems.

The other issue to consider is the available candidates. And that’s where things get tricky. There may not currently be anyone they really want. A person who will make a difference. The right manager who can solve the issues related to under-performance.

Sometimes the best action is no action in the very short-term. Sometimes it’s waiting until the right moment. And we really want change to happen at the right moment. If it happens before then, it means things have taken a turn for the worse.

So when will the right moment happen? Obviously, it depends upon the pool of candidates and whether the Front Office is thinking interim or permanent. And then there’s the interview process which now is monitored by MLB to ensure equal consideration.

But when it’s time to finally make that change, look at the Tigers’ schedule. The change will most probably happen on an “off” day.

14 thoughts on “CIRCLING THE WAGONS

  1. Don’t care when it happens this year, it should have went down end of last season when they had a chance for a clean break. Managers like Dusty Baker were still on the market. Still could have landed those great FA signings to. All hail Al Avila.

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  2. I don’t think making a “change for the sake of change” shows instability in an organization. If they did it every other week, maybe. But at this point in the Tigers’ season I think any change in the managerial position would be a good idea. They hafta at least appear to be doing something. Just letting this train wreck continue careening down the track doesn’t show real stability either.

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  3. Seems like Francona will have a good season in Cleveland, I doubt he will be available; Joe Maddon will be the second king in Chicago after Al Capone, so forget about it; Bochy is the most famous Bruce in California; Matheny looks too comfortable in St. Louis. Will the final part of the funnel end up with Mike Scioscia?

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    • Yessir, I agree. I personally feel that Leyland should’ve ‘retired’ at his contract end after 2011 when Terry Francona was available after being fired (unfairly, in my estimation) in Boston. I love Leyland, but feel that his downhill skid began in 2011, and he shouldn’t have been there in 2012. I can’t help but feel that if Francona had been here in 2012, we would’ve won the WS.

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  4. Sadly, in a game that featured almost everything you’d hope for, something again reared its ugly head. No Tigers game is complete without baffling strategy by the buffoonish manager Brad Ausmus. With Zimmermann done for the night, “Bradley” passed on an opportunity to make a double switch before the eighth inning started, or if not that, a better choice to pinch hit than what he ultimately chose.

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  5. “Sometimes the best action is no action in the very short-term.” Sometimes, but I don’t think this is the time. The window for this team is closing; if they write off this season, there might not be another shot at the postseason for a decade.

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  6. Brad should have been gone a year ago. As far as I’m concerned, he’d proven by the end of the first road series with the Pirates that he was either unwilling, unable or too arrogant to learn from mistakes. With enough of the right experience he may be a HoF manager someday. But The Show was no place for him to serve his apprenticeship.

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  7. Brad has taken on the aura of a Dead Man Walking. Surely this can’t go on much longer. He needs to be replaced with someone who has good experience and the backbone to stand up to Miggy’s tomfoolery, willing to call guys out and hurt their feeling if necessary. Brad’s managing would be a topic of conversation let alone having it ride on the back of a terrible Tiger’s slump/funk.

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    • Ozzie Guillen just might be the man for the job. I have already slipped into self-protection mode and apathy for the fate of this team is setting in fast (earlier than I can ever remember).

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  8. I have noticed a lot of PR fluff from the local beat writers lately, especially from someone whose last name begins with H. I am a second year season ticket holder (not that it matters), but it is clearly evident from seeing in person that there has to be some sort of change moving forward. Uninspired, individual play is not very fun to watch.

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  9. I agree with Joe, Ozzie Guillen would be a perfect fit. I am attending the 4 game series in Baltimore, and passed Omar walking down the street alone, looking dejected.

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  10. After the surprise decision to keep Ausmus after last season, I would hope that any baseball person/business person would have implemented a contingency plan in the off season. If I was aware keeping Brad was a risk, I sure hope AA had a similar feeling or else he should be exiting with Brad.

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